The Change Direction Blog is about the joys, and practical impacts, of working from home online. It is about online businesses and techniques for internet marketing, traffic building. It is also about what it is like to work from home, working with family around, and all the practicial issues that arise on a day to day basis for someone working from home. Plus, an ex pat view of an English guy living in Palawan, a tropical paradise in the Philippines.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

More Wasted Time Getting Website Traffic

Yesterday I wrote about "out with the old" when I talked about free internet advertising that seemed to be a waste of time, and in my case, money. I decided in December I would dispense of my FFA and classified sites as they meant practically no good quality website traffic.

Since the turn of the year, I have also concluded that I must dispense with safelists, another time waster when it comes to increasing website traffic. To run a worthwhile test, I had decided to use a company who claimed to be the "black tie" of safelist submitters. At least, I thought, that would take out much of the time element. The service was again excellent, but as I expected, the results negligible. Safelists are full of people trying to sell to you, so you would not expect great results. I did actually get a few sign ups, but out of the millions of ads going out every week that was not very impressive. As with FFA's and classifieds, the cost of the black tie service was not really justified, though to anyone who did actually get good results, it would be a good service.

With so many safelist memberships, I then had the expense of setting up another email account capable of receiving and deleting many thousands of emails. So, I did that and that worked very well, though it just emphasised the futility of it all. Thousands of people every day mailing each other and then deleting them without reading them. That's not my idea of spending a productive day at work. What was such a waste of time though was the emails from the safelist owners. I had naively given one of my main email addresses, and my first task everyday became clearing all their junk out. Again, not a productive use of time.

Although the submitter I used could join you automatically to all the safelists on their books, you could not remove yourself without contacting each one separately. Over 1000 of them. So I wasted a load more time telling everyone who used that email address, who I wanted to hear from, to change it. Then I deleted the email address.

In my planning for this year, to increase the quality and traffic to my new website, I had decided back in November that much of my time would be devoted to writing content and articles, plus learning about RSS. By dumping safelists, plus my FFA and Classified sites, I have freed up a fair bit of time each day, lost practically nothing in the way of website traffic, and saved about $60 a month. Seems not just a good business decision, but a positive effect on my day.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Wasted Time Getting Website Traffic

As always with a new year it is a good time to consider what of the old should be "out", and what new should be "in". For those of us who have websites, it is a good time to decide what has not worked, and is not working, in respect of getting traffic to the website. It is a perennial problem for webmasters, and there is no single, simple answer. It is a wide range of things.

Free website traffic is always to be welcomed, of course. But I have decided it is time to dump two forms of "free" internet advertising, and mostly dump another method of getting free traffic. Volume of traffic isn't everything, quality is much more important.

After reviewing my budget, and considering time I would have available, I decided to stop my classified ads site and FFA site. I set them up through Multi Links, and the service was excellent. But although it is free advertising, setting it up in a way that does not take up too much time, and gives you a reasonable system, does cost. I tested it out for a couple of months, or was it 3? I got a trickle of website traffic and sign ups to my mailing lists, but not enough to justify my monthly outlay. Quite frankly, it was a waste of time and money. Mind you, that is what I was expecting before I started the test. Some would argue I should have tested longer. But I had thought FFA's and classified ad sites had died a few years back, and something I had read (hype, no doubt) made me think it worth another try 8 years after my first FFA campaigns.

So, no more "free" traffic to my website, or merchant websites, from my own Classifieds and FFA's. I have better things to do with my time and my money. They belong with the "out with the old" category. I cover website marketing in far more detail on my new website.
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Wow, it's hot here today. That's not unusual, of course, this is a tropical country. But the rainy season has made a welcome retreat, and I can't remember now when we last had rain. A few weeks back, at the time the Philippines was back in the international news with a natural disaster, as a series of tropical storms and a typhoon brought extensive flooding, mudslides and death in Luzon. That "natural" disaster was aggravated by man made greed, with deforestation being blamed for many mudlsides and thus deaths.

Here in Palawan, there is much rainforest left, and thankfully not too much illegal logging. It does happen, and will happen, but there is a lot of positive work going on too. In Puerto Princesa, whose boundaries extend out over a vast area of farmland, mountains and rain forest, the actual % of area covered by forest has been steadily increased over the last decade, recovering much of the area of forest lost to illegal loggers.

My next major task is build a website about Palawan's rainforest, to increase awareness of the rainforest, and at the same time hopefully open up the province more to ecotourism. Sustainable development and renewable forestry are part of the environmental programme here. I hope to do my own little bit. I will be getting involved too in the Community Based Forestry Management programme, just outside of Puerto Princesa city proper in Sta Lourdes.

That is something I will definitely enjoy, with my interest in wild life, plants and trees. The whole project will help the forest in the long term, and make more productive use of other land for the community, especially the children.


Monday, January 10, 2005

Working at Home. What Do You Manage? (6)

In the last few days I've mentioned some of the key elements of managing your online business when you are working at home. As I have said before, working at home in your own business does not mean there are no management responsibilities, as you are now the manager of all the different "departments" in the business. It is your business now, so you get all the benefits of good management, and all the consequences of bad management. The buck stops with you, though if things go wrong, you may be tempted to blame others. But when you are the CEO, the responsibility for the well being of the business is yours.

There are three "departmental" elements of management, mentioned in the first in this sequence of posts, that I have not covered yet: purchasing, and, if appropriate, research and development, and production. Working in a home based business will certainly have a purchasing input. Whatever you are doing, you will spend money. The better you manage that spending, the better your profit and loss results will be, and that is true whether you're working in an office or at home. A large business will probably have a professional purchasing manager, watched closely by the finance director and CEO. If you are working alone at home, you are that purchasing manager, and the finance director and CEO parts of you need to watch out for what's going on.

Are you an impulsive buyer? The financial manager part of you has to discipline you if that is so. You will benefit greatly if you can stand back from the situation and take a detached view of your purchases. You need a decision making process that brings you to the best decisions over what you buy, and what you are prepared to pay for it. You need to challenge yourself for every purchase, whether it's for software, new computer, joining an online program, buying an ebook, or many other things.

Buying ebooks can be particularly difficult, as often you do not know for sure what you will be getting. You may find it best to delay purchase after first consideration, then go back to it. A few months back I had a long list of ebooks, software aids, and marketing aids I wanted to purchase. Thankfully, my budget did not allow me to buy all. I could have transferred money from elsewhere to buy the lot, but I stuck to the month's budget. When I went back to the list a couple of months later, I found that I no longer wanted to buy all but one of the remaining items. I am sure you will have many occasions like that. Running a business has no place for impulse buys. Review once, review twice and maybe three times. Then buy if you really think such a decision is justified, and not a product of impulse or panic. Purchasing is a cool discipline, as is much of running a business, whether at home or elsewhere. So, be a cool manager of your home based online business, and you will have a more profitable business in the long run.


Sunday, January 09, 2005

Working at Home. What Do You Manage? (5)

When you work at home online, another of your "management" responsibilities is the computing side. I have worked on some large projects, all of which had lots of computing technical staff there to help out, implement and advise. But you are working at home, are probably pretty much alone when it comes to the work itself, and may not have the funding to call in an "expert" every time you have a problem with your computer hardware or software.

Fortunately not much usually goes wrong with the hardware these days. But software, that can be difficult sometimes if you are not that way inclined. With technical developments and internet marketing changes coming thick and fast, I think all of us working from home really need to keep up to date with what our computers can do and how.

I have worked at home mostly over the past decade, and I must say I have had no major computer breakdowns. When it comes to software installation, and implementing new systems, I do try to learn as much as I can, almost entirely online. Whether you like them or not, computers are your main tool and probably always will be. So, for anyone working at home alone, as I do, it is best to persevere and try to understand the software and do as much as you can on your own. Otherwise, your costs will always be that much higher, depending on what computer expertise costs in your part of the world.

Mostly, though, software packages are quite user friendly. However, that is not always the case, especially in a newly developing specialist area, such as RSS. Now there it probably will help for a while if you can get stuck into some code. But when it comes to website development, for example, I believe it really is best to do it yourself, and make use of some of the wonderful software packages and services out there to develop your own website. I use Front Page to build websites, and I'm very much an amateur, as you will see if you visit the site. However, at least I have complete control, and don't have to spend my day checking somebody elses work or explaining to them what I want. Anyway, when it comes to my own home based business, I would rather manage myself, so I am the computer manager. I suspect you will be too.

I think it's a good idea to try to learn something new every day. As part of your time management, it's good to allow some time each day to pick up some new techniques, learn something new about some of the software you have, or investigate software you've not purchased yet. Most people will not do that, so by learning more and more, you're putting yourself and your home business into a stronger position.


Saturday, January 08, 2005

Working at Home. What Do You Manage? (4)

When you have your own home based business, whether it be online or offline, financial management is one of the key "departments" you really do need to keep on top of. It is so easy to allow things to drift when you're working at home, and concentrate merely on totting up the sales revenue. But remember, if you want your home business to be a long term success, you not only need to record your sales and or commissions, you also need to have a good, up to date record of all your expenditure .

When you have your own home based business, whether it be online or offline, financial management is one of the key "departments" you really do need to keep on top of. It is so easy to allow things to drift when you're working at home, and concentrate merely on celebrating the sales. Having your own home business can be a great experience, but you can make it better still, and more likely to be long term, if you apply the same business discipline in your financial control as a large company would.

It is very likely that your records will only need to be very simple at first, but it makes sense to get some sort of information structure in place right at the start, then as things expand for you, there will no need to play catch up. Your home business will flourish if you have your finger on the pulse. Just as a CEO calls for regular finance reports in a company, you, as CEO of your own online business, need to ensure that your finance director, also you, provides all the necessary information to satisfy your needs for statutory returns (eg your country's tax department) and for monitoring the different elements of your business. In other words, you want a management information system that helps you make decisions that will improve the profitability of the business.

Management information system sounds very grand, but it need not be. It should just provide you with enough information to make timely and sound decisions, such as when to drop a particular program from your portfolio. I have dropped a number of affiliate programs in the past because their return, if any, did not justify the amount of time and expense being dedicated to them. I was only able to do that because I had enough information to make the decision, sometimes very soon after joining a program.

My new website has a section on planning for your new home based business which you may find helps you get started. I hope in due course to cover your business finance more fully in the finance section. Mmm, another job! I think I need to practice my time management skills. Maybe I'll have to consult my baby daughter on that one, but she's asleep just a metre away from me at the moment.

Oh, the pleasures of working from home!

Friday, January 07, 2005

Working at Home. What Do You Manage? (3)

Working at home in a business on your own, and having responsibility for managing yourself and all the specialist functions, has been my theme for the last few days. One of the most important departments in any company is the marketing department. Now you are working alone in your own internet business, you are the one who has to know what internet marketing options are open to you, how to select which ways you will promote your business and website, how you will budget for your advertising and other internet promotions, and how you will monitor how successful your different internet and advertising promotions are once they get started.

Internet marketing is a massive and ever changing subject, so I will make absolutely no attempt to cover it in detail in one go here. You can read more on my new website, which I hope you will find a balanced and informative read. Much more will be added as time goes on. There is a massive amount of material available for free on the internet, all I can say is absorb as much as you can and then try to take a down to earth view of it. That is what I have done in the past, and have not got my fingers burnt so far. However, from what I read there is a lot of repetitive junk being sold as original, so be careful, and only spend your money when you have taken a detached view. Of course, it is difficult to carry out due diligence on an ebook you have not yet read, so there is inevitably a bit of pot luck involved.

Also, if you are keen to get started, you can always join a turnkey business that has marketing support. I recommend a couple of long established and proven companies at my new website. Just occasionally there is a new online business that has someone of substance behind it who you can expect to deliver. I have included a letter from Mike G. below, which I have shown in full as this is a time sensitive offer, and a very generous one at that. If you do not wish to see any sales material, please do not go beyond the divider below.

Finally, and on a happy note, I mentioned a while back that Dr Mani had generously donated the proceeds of an Ebook to local children here in Palawan in the Philippines. This arose because I was unable to pay for his Ebook using Clickbank or Paypal. Well, today we went just out of the city and distributed a whole load of clothes to some orphans and other poor children. Thank you Dr Mani, the 29 or so children who benefitted were delighted, as were their carers and, for those lucky to have one to look after them, their mothers.

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SALES MATERIAL BELOW
PLEASE DO NOT PROCEED IF YOU DO NOT WISH TO READ

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I'm going to invite 1 MILLION people to join NoBSzone.com...

And I want to include your NoBSzone link in this major promotion

Hi,

You may not realize it but for the past several years I have built a number of internet businesses using all kinds of marketing strategies... and one of my favorite marketing strategies is called opt-in emailing.

No, I'm not talking about buying a list of co-registrations or buying harvested names in various databases. What I'm talking about is an entire industry commonly referred to asopt-in mail houses.

Opt-in mailing houses specialize in doing one of two things:

1) They develop their "own" list of opt-in subscribers to mail various offers to, then charge advertising clients a fee to mail their offers.

2) They manage other companies large databases of opt-in members or subscribers, and again, charge a fee to outside advertisers to reach those members or subscribers who have opted-in.

3) Some opt-in mail houses actually do both of the above.

Over the years I've gotten to know most of the major opt-in mail houses online. And, I have regularly used their services for a wide variety of offers and continue to do so, therefore I have established excellent relationships with the best mailing houses on the net.

And, because of the volume I do with my favorite companies, I (guess what?) get their absolute best, lowest, rock-bottom prices. That's good for me, and obviously now that's good for you, here's why...

Between now and January 12, 2005 when you become a Pro Member at NoBSzone, and for everyone that becomes a Pro Member at NoBSzone, I'm going to include your URL in a major marketing campaign.

What does this mean for you? All the new members that join NoBSzone from this Massive Campaign will be put below you. I'm going to do all the work for you! All you have to do is upgrade to the NoBSzone Earning Team (Pro Membership), and voila! You will have THE most colossal opt-in email houses doing the most extensive, exorbitant, voluminous
ad blitz to promote your Earning Team.

This offer is only for you, and only if you have upgraded to the Earning Team (Pro Membership), by January 12, 2005.

I already have the technology in place to rotate your NoBSzone URL with the millions of ads we will mail, so long as you upgrade your membership by January 12, and you will build your Earning Team without having to lift a finger.

AND I'm paying for the whole deal out of my own pocket... Kowabunga!

If you don't have a downline yet, this offer is for you! And if you have people below you now, you better go upgrade now - don't lose out on your Earning Team, don't hesitate - upgrade today.

And don't forget your NoBSzone Pro Membership is 100% Risk Free.

I so strongly believe in this that if you are not 100% satisfied with you Pro Membership,
(and the subsequent money we'll be making together)....

I will give you your money back!

This is an iron clad, no questions asked, money back guarantee.

I promise I won't let you down.

In fact, I have a special rotator script which allows me to accommodate up to 100 NoBSzone links/URL's and equally divide the "new" members who join among these 100NoBSzone members.

I'm going to assume that far more than 100 NoBSzone members between now and January 12 will leap at this opportunity to become a Pro member. Therefore.. I willmail to 1,000,000 prospects, paying for it out of my own pocket for each 100 new Pro NoBSzone members... Kowabunga!

I'll be doing this major promotion for you the first week of February.

Here's a brief recap of just some of the benefits you receive as a Pro member:

Everyone below you, whether they are put there by the Power Matrix, ie; the people above you, whether you put them there through your own marketing efforts using our professional tools available to you through our back office, or whether they come in as a result of the people below you working hard to build their NoBSzone earning team, will produce revenue for you, and here's how.

  • When we launch a recommended network marketing program, everyone in your earning team, ie; those people below you who follow you, will instantly build for you another stream of income at the newly recommended company... and yes, even all of those people below you who elect to remain a free member at NoBSzone will be invited to join new opportunities. However, they will not be invited to join new opportunities until after all Pro members have been positioned. This is obviously a tremendous benefit and incentive for free members to upgrade to Pro membership.

  • You also earn revenue on all people below you (whether or not you put them there), who become Pro members at NoBSzone. Chances are you already have people in your Earning Team, and if not don't sweat it, you will. Just listen to the Kick-Off Recorded Tele-conference now posted on your home page.

  • When we offer bonus programs, those programs that we believe are of tremendous value to the NoBSzone community of members, that are not network marketing related, everything from special advertising programs which are proven to be successful to software opportunities to unique membership programs, you name it, if it's a product or service which is of extremely high value and we offer it to you and your earning team, you will earn revenue on everyone in your Earning Team who takes advantage of any of the bonus programs we present, even if you do not. This is a huge benefit available only to Pro members. It's important to note here that bonus programs also will be offered to those who elect to remain free members. But they of course, will not receive any shared revenue on these programs from their Earning Team.

  • From time to time we will offer cooperative advertising opportunities, but only those that have been tested by us at corporate and proven to be successful. I'll send you complete details on each and every campaign. And these unique and powerful and proven cooperative advertising programs will always be extremely affordable... I'll negotiate the cost down to the bone because we can do huge volume with the vendors, and make these opportunities available to you and the other Pro members. Free members will not be invited to participate in cooperative advertising programs.
  • I know from years of experience, the number one reason most people do not become active in solid legitimate opportunities is because... they don't know what to do next to build their business... I am now solving that problem for you and everyone else who joins as a Pro Member between now and January 12.

    The deal on my end is all set. The company I'm using has an active database of just over 63 million opt-in subscribers. The sales letter that we will mail to their database is ready to go. I just need your nod of approval to include your URL, your NoBSzone link, in the mailing.

    Join immediately and upgrade to Pro and we'll include your URL in this major campaign... but you must join and upgrade by January 12, 2005.

    http://roythom.nobszone.com

    And then, sit back and relax and let me do my thing... You do not need to send me your link because, I am doing this for every new Pro Member between now and January 12 automatically.

    Sincerely,

    Mike G.
    Founder, NoBSzone

    PS: Alert! As a free member you do not receive any revenue from your earning team, except for $10 direct referral bonus when you personally sponsor a Pro Member... upgrade now!


    Thursday, January 06, 2005

    Working at Home. What Do You Manage? (2)

    Yesterday I wrote about how those of us working at home, especially in a home business alone, still had a management responsibility....managing oneself. That can surely be more difficult, in some ways, than managing other people.

    There are many distractions at home, and that certainly affects time management. If you want to have, or already have, a home based business, you will need to have some sort of control of yourself when it comes to time management. But again, time management can be more of a problem working at home online than it may be if you work for a company in an office. Usually the company and your "superiors" will at least structure much of your time working in an office, store or factory. Of course, it depends what your job is, and if you have a lot of widespread responsibilities you may have to be quite sophisticated at managing your time in work hours.

    Working at home for yourself, though, is very different. It is your business, you have nobody to tell you what to do. It is, or can be, totally in your control as to how you spend your time. For example, if you are easily tempted to go down the pub every lunchtime, and then have to sleep it off in the afternoon, your new found freedom may not lead to a successful business at home. Unless you are making a fortune by doing just a couple of hours work in the morning!

    If you have family around you at home, then they can impose a time structure on your day. In my case, as I use my baby daughter's bedroom at the moment, she decides my start time and end time. Everyone will have different sets of distractions at home that will or may stop them working. That can make business a bit difficult at times, but can also be a great pleasure. I actually see my daughter, Saffron, grow up day by day, almost hour by hour. It's great.

    There are many aspects of managing your time when you have your own business at home, and I will cover these in more detail in my newsletter Making Your Online Business More Profitable. This newsletter is an adjunct to my new website about working from home online. When you are free of distractions around you, you have to deal with the distractions online. They can be coming at you all day if you are not careful, and be a great time waster for your business.

    Wednesday, January 05, 2005

    Working at Home. What Do You Manage?

    Working at home for many can mean an escape from the managers above them who may have made their lives a misery, or at least less satisfying, for all their previous career.

    But does working at home mean an escape from management altogether? No, it does not. At least, if you want a more profitable home based business, then management will be every bit as important as before. In fact, more important. Now it is your business. If you had shares in a company, would you not want good management to increase profits and thus your dividend and capital? Of course you would. Well, your home based business is all yours. You are not earning profits for others, unless you have family responsibilities. Okay, you will pay taxes, but that's not your biggest concern when you get started. You just want to get started and make some profits. Having achieved your dream of a home business, you want it to succeed.

    So now, you have reached, or are about to reach, your dream of working at home. You will have an online business that will belong to you. You are the boss, and the expert on all aspects of running a business. You have your freedom at last, now you need to manage your new business in a way that will ensure it grows and prospers.

    One of the departments in a large company is the Personnel or Human Resources Department. You may wonder why that should be relevant to you, alone and independent with no manager above you, and no staff. At least, no staff to begin with. Who knows, you may have an office block one day, but let's not jump ahead.

    There is one problem you have to deal with as the personnel manager of your own business. You have to deal with yourself. You are the boss and the staff. The best staff are those who follow instructions, work hard in their allotted time, work efficiently in what they are doing, and apply all the knowledge and training they have. They are also going to flourish by coming forward with good ideas and having them listened to.

    The best managers give clear instructions and communicate their expectations of their staff. They also explain why certain things are done and paint the broader picture to enlighten their staff about what their role means.

    With you as manager and staff, these things will all be so easy.........won't they? Maybe not. Having your own business, especially based at home and alone, is not necessarily as straight forward as you may have thought. Just ask yourself for now, if you were a manager, were you a good manager? As a subordinate, were you a good member of staff, someone your bosses respected and could rely on? Ask yourself. Be honest and ask some of your former co-workers, who should be honest too. Listen to any conflicts. You will have to deal with those as manager and staff.

    Really? Yes, really!


    Tuesday, January 04, 2005

    Working at Home? How Do You Manage?

    Working at home is something millions of people strive for and dream of, but most never actually get around to doing. For those who do achieve it, how do they adapt if they have changed, for example, from an office environment, where they were employed, had a strict routine imposed on them, and were told what to do all the time by those above them in the company?

    How do you manage working alone from home? Now that is not "manage" in the "how do you get by" sense. It is manage in the manager/staff sense. You work at home alone, you are the boss of your home based business. So who or what is there to "manage"?

    This is the subject I am considering for the first issue of my new Ezine. The Ezine is an adjunct to my latest website, which is largely about working at home online in a home based business. The title of the Ezine is "Making Your Online Business More Profitable". The profitability of any company, sole proprietor or multinational, depends on the successful management of a number of omnipresent departments: marketing, finance, human resources, computing, purchasing, and, if appropriate, research and development, and production.

    If you are working at home alone, online, you have all those management responsibilities and functions rolled into one. Your management task is perhaps the most difficult of all. You have to manage yourself. If you have never thought about it like that, then I suggest you consider it for a while.

    I think you will find it is not as easy as it may sound.




    Monday, January 03, 2005

    Internet Blessings for Palawan

    The day after Christmas I wrote about a wonderful gesture by Dr Mani, who had asked me to donate the cost of his Ebook to a local children's charity. The Ebook was about profiting from RSS, or Really Simple Syndication. He had done this as Clickbank regularly refuse my perfectly valid credit cards, so I was unable to pay online. It was a warm, natural gesture that made my day.

    That was a week ago now, and this morning Mary Ann and I had a meeting with a contact from just outside Puerto Princesa, who I knew to be involved in community projects, and had a special interest in helping children. Fe brought with her a man, known to his friends as Boots. I had not met him before, but he was from the community programme she was very much involved in. They did, indeed, know of quite a few children who were orphans and would benefit from Dr Mani's kind contribution.

    After our meeting, Mary Ann went out immediately to the "Ukey Ukey" store. That is, for second hand clothing. There she spent almost all Dr Mani's donation on children's clothes, brought them back here, and is now washing them ready to distribute to the children later in the week. Over 90 items of young children's clothes will go to some very poor, grateful and smiling children aged 5 and under. The little bit of money that is left will go towards a special meal for the children after the presentation. No doubt it will be a very enjoyable occasion, which I will feature here at a later date.

    One of the things that make life such a joy sometimes is the chance meetings that can sometimes have a great impact, even cause a change of direction, in your life, or, as on this occasion, bring an answer to a puzzle or need that has been with you, unsolved, for some time.

    It was very fortuitous that Fe brought Boots with her. I have had plans for some time to start a website about Palawan rain forests, but without an easy source of information, and little time to go out pursuing it myself, it has not yet got off the ground. I am currently awaiting information from the Narra area to the south of Puerto Princesa, to use as the starting point for the website, but things move a little slowly here in the Philippines, and especially in Palawan. Well, I did come here for a more relaxing lifestyle.

    Boots, though, was introduced as a landscaper, so I quickly got onto that subject. He spoke very good English, so here was a great opportunity to talk to somebody who knew about plants in Palawan. I was a keen gardener once, but my knowledge is of English gardens and gardening. When it comes to tropical plants, trees, and indeed wildlife, I am ignorant. I could not plan a garden, as I do not know what height a plant will grow to, what light it likes, what colour it's flowers will be, and all the other things I used to take into account in planning an English garden. Buy a book, you may say. Well, that's a nice thought, but please let me know if you find one about gardening in the Philippines. You can buy books here about gardening in England, but gardening in the Philippines? No, I have seen nothing.

    It emerged Boots had the same problem in making the switch to landscape gardening as a career. However, he had managed to learn, through seminars, about the plants and trees of Palawan. We got more into the subject of trees, then forests. The community programme they are involved in is quite wide ranging: rain forest preservation, reafforestation, sustainable development, livelihood projects for local people, eco tourism, eco friendly agriculture, mixing agriculture with sustainable foresty, organic agriculture and horticulture, and other very interesting aspects that will be a great boon to the poor local community as well as the rain forests of Palawan.

    As Boots spoke, it was very clear he was extremely enthusiastic about every part of the community program. Each time I mentioned something about my planned rain forest website, he responded with equal enthusiasm. He had all the knowledge I needed for now about tree species, a lot of knowledge about rainforest protection, sustainable forestry and agriculture in this tropical island. Then came the big bonus. "Can you write"? I asked. He had already told me he had worked in the tv industry as a set designer, now he told me he once had been a copy writer too. He was very happy to write up all the necessary technical info about trees and Palawan rain forests for the website, in which I would feature their community project. So I then asked, "can you write up a daily report or diary of the project"? Yes, he was keen on that too. Maybe I had found a super guest blogger for my new website when it was ready for publication.

    So as it is evolving, one internet blessing from Dr Mani has brought a series of other blessings for a particular community in Palawan, for me as my website will have a great source of rain forest content, and probably for the preservation of rainforest more widely in Palawan. It is amazing how life flows when you work online in a tropical paradise!

    Sunday, January 02, 2005

    Working at Home......In the Middle of the Night

    I recall many times in the past, back in England, going to sleep at night hoping that my subconscious would sort out some difficult problem. I was involved in some quite complex project management jobs in those days, usually involving many people, personalities, admin and management tasks, and new computer systems. Pulling it all together so that the project ran smoothly could be very difficult at times. Usually, though, I would get back to the office in the morning (after a 2 to 4 hour journey), and find that by then I knew what to do. My subconscious had done my work. Talk about laid back problem solving.

    No such problems or pressures these days. Last night, however, I woke in the middle of the night. My mind was instantly crystal clear, and I felt a vibrancy that only a flash of inspiration can bring. I had given no instructions to my subconscious to do overtime, and I had no particular problems with work to deal with. However, I had been wondering, for many months now, what subject could I write on for an Ebook, or what product I could develop to sell online, all of my own.

    When I woke so starkly, the idea was not only there, it was fully packaged. Something of an Ebook Plus. I even woke with the title clear in my head. I was excited, and I kept thinking, "no need to write that down, it's too good an idea to forget". Anyway, the pens that were supposed to reside by the bedroom telephone had all gone walkabouts recently. I think they were off moonlighting somewhere. They had not left a "goodbye" note, and the chief suspects (Mary Ann and I) both denied knowledge of the blue, black and red pens and the pencil. So, I had nothing to write with without switching a light on, disturbing Mary Ann, and going downstairs.

    So, I tried to sleep, but my mind was full of the Ebook idea. After all, Ebooks are supposed to be the best way to make a lot of money online. Then I recalled several instances recently when I had ideas just before I fell asleep, and thought: "no need to write that down, it's too good an idea to forget". When I woke up....the idea had gone walkabouts too. It was no good, I had to record it, this idea of mine, before I fell asleep.

    I sat on the edge of the bed and input a reminder to my cell phone. I thought if I had the title, that would trigger the rest of the package.

    I think if the computer had not been in baby Saffron's room I would have gone and switched it on and started putting ideas together before I forgot them. That is a temptation I may have when we move, and the computer is in a separate room. But I must resist such temptations. I need my sleep at night, as do we all.

    This morning the alarm for the reminder went off, and the title of the Ebook idea did remind me of the whole idea. So, I have now rescheduled the same reminder for June 2005. By then I should have done all the necessary research and checked everything out I need to. As well as written an enormous amount of detail, of course.

    I just hope my cell phone does not go on walkabouts too, to that great hole in the sky where the pens and pencils have forged an advance trail from our bedroom. Mmmmmm, maybe I should write it down on some paper....if I can find a pen. But I'll still need a reminder to tell me where I wrote it down. Same if I put it on the PC.

    Anyway, why worry. After all, "no need to write that down, it's too good an idea to forget".

    Saturday, January 01, 2005

    Is Email Dying?

    Well, it's 2005, at least here in S E Asia. On the West Coast of the US I think it's still last year, but midnight cannot be far off. I must admit my thinking is not that clear today. That, of course, has nothing to do with the fact that it was New Year's Eve last night. That's no excuse. Our daughter Saffron, woken by the crescendo of fireworks after 11pm, stayed up almost as late as I did, and she's as bright as a sparkler right now. So, I have no real excuse.

    Today I have been trying to get myself organised with verified opt-in mailing lists, in the context of launching my new newsletter: Making Your Online Business More Profitable. 2004 has really been a year when the whole subject of email and spam has been at the forefront of the minds of internet marketers.

    The anti Spam legislation has had more than the desired effect. I think everyone hates spam, even spammers. I guess also that everyone hates spammers, except spammers, though they probably hate other spammers. An attempt by legislators in different countries to prevent the deluge of spam into Inboxes was to be expected. The spam itself had already spawned the spam filter industry, which has "flourished" this year. I put flourished in "" because flourishing gives the impression of health. Their balance sheets and profit and loss figures may be flourishing, but the email industry is not.

    Spam filters were set up to prevent spam, not to kill perfectly genuine and good emails, from friends, lovers, publishers you have requested a newsletter from, or anybody else who is not "spamming" you. Some recent figures suggest a significant proportion of valid emails are not reaching their destination. Is that good? Is that what the legislation intended? No, it is it not.

    People use filters in good faith, without, in most cases, having any idea how they work. They may be blissfully unaware that, in some cases, good email will not reach them. How much does that damage online business? How many business relationships are damaged by failure to respond to an email that was never received? How many personal relationships are damaged in the same way? Nobody knows. But if, for example, a marriage is on the rocks, one such incident could be the straw that broke the camel's back.

    Internet marketers in particular have been covering the subject an enormous amount in the past year. Some are even saying that email is dying. Well, dying is surely an exaggeration, but it is increasingly difficult for internet marketers to get their message, even if requested, to the recipient. They comply, in most cases, with the legislation, but the self appointed Spam Police have their own ideas of what email people should receive. To me, that is far more annoying than spam itself. It is a form of censorship if it snuffs out email that people really wanted to receive.

    Is spam as a problem exaggerated too? Well, I have no figures on that, but in my own case it has never been more than a minor irritation. I have 3 websites with different email addresses on, which can presumably be harvested for spam email lists. One of those websites has been there nearly 2 years. So is my Inbox filled with spam? No. I get a few, but it is a minor irritation. Maybe I'm lucky, I have no way of knowing.

    I do know that the people I expect to hear from do get their emails to me, but I have no spam filters activated. I have just never found it necessary. One problem I have noticed, though, is nothing to do with spam filtering. Once most marketers legitimately get hold of your email address, they start sending far too many advertising only emails. Even if they start off with one or a series of helpful emails, which you may have requested, it soon deteriorates into an ad bombardment. Today, I opted out of the list of a well known internet guru for that very reason.

    So, it is up to internet marketers to put their own house in order too. If they send out emails that people find useful, entertaining, reliable or profitable, on a consistent basis, people will look forward to their good content. They will take the extra steps necessary to ensure the emails they want get through to them. In most cases, adding to the address book or "approved" list will do just that. Who will want to "approve" an email address that sends nothing but ads when the expectation was, originally, useful content. I think the average person would accept a reasonable amount of advertising, if it is relevant and is a small % of the content.

    I cannot foresee that email will die, even as a marketing tool. But it could be in need of surgery, and it is up to all of us to learn the surgical procedures.